The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning to pet owners to avoid feeding their pets bones. I’m a little surprised the FDA would bother with this topic but I agree with the information. FDA veterinarian Carmela Stamper, states "Bones are unsafe no matter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian’s office later, possible emergency surgery, or even death.”
The FDA lists 10 reasons why it’s a bad idea to give your dog a bone:
- Broken teeth. This may call for expensive veterinary dentistry.
- Mouth or tongue injuries. These can be very bloody and messy and may require a trip to see your veterinarian.
- Bone gets looped around your dog’s lower jaw. This can be frightening or painful for your dog and potentially costly to you, as it usually means a trip to see your veterinarian.
- Bone gets stuck in esophagus, the tube that food travels through to reach the stomach. Your dog may gag, trying to bring the bone back up, and will need to see your veterinarian.
- Bone gets stuck in windpipe. This may happen if your dog accidentally inhales a small enough piece of bone. This is an emergency because your dog will have trouble breathing. Get your pet to your veterinarian immediately!
- Bone gets stuck in stomach. It went down just fine, but the bone may be too big to pass out of the stomach and into the intestines. Depending on the bone’s size, your dog may need surgery or upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, a procedure in which your veterinarian uses a long tube with a built-in camera and grabbing tools to try to remove the stuck bone from the stomach.
- Bone gets stuck in intestines and causes a blockage. It may be time for surgery.
- Constipation due to bone fragments. Your dog may have a hard time passing the bone fragments because they’re very sharp and they scrape the inside of the large intestine or rectum as they move along. This causes severe pain and may require a visit to your veterinarian.
- Severe bleeding from the rectum. This is very messy and can be dangerous. It’s time for a trip to see your veterinarian.
- Peritonitis. This nasty, difficult-to-treat bacterial infection of the abdomen is caused when bone fragments poke holes in your dog’s stomach or intestines. Your dog needs an emergency visit to your veterinarian because peritonitis can kill your dog.
One point they could have added is that bones can be a source of infectious agents like Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli, both for the pet and people, depending on the source of the bones and how they are processed and handled.
I suspect that many people will not like the FDA’s statement. Some will express outrage. People that have had to pay for major dental repairs or surgery will (probably silently and vehemently) agree. Most people may never have thought about it, which is why this type of press release is a good thing. It raises awareness about the potential and real problems associated with bones and will hopefully lead to fewer sick and injured dogs. While chewing on bones might be "natural", natural doesn’t always mean healthy, and there are much safer alternatives.